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 The Character of the EU

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PostSubject: The Character of the EU   Mon Apr 07, 2008 4:12 pm

I hope ibis doesn't mind me using one of his posts from the Lisbon and Neutrality thread to perhaps start a broader discussion on just what Europe (ed.- do you mean the EU?) is or aims to be. Not overly familiar with the characters of international blocs I will provisionally venture that Europe aims to be a Libertarian Socialist Superstate, where business law and the economic ethos operates within a socialist framework (as opposed to 'hegemony' - a Marxist analytical term). By Socialist I mean that the higher human rights of education and social justice are of paramount importance and that Resources will be made available in an orchestrated way if necessary to support community structures that are egalitarian and progressive in a human-centred way and within environmentally-sensitive, humanitarian (and maybe global trading ?) parameters.

ibis wrote:
In a certain sense, the way the EU confuses people is hilarious. Professional and academic analyses of it find that it is a unique experiment in sharing sovereignty between independent nations.

Almost everyone else immediately assume it must be the same as x, or y, usually whatever they have the greatest familiarity with, or fear of.

Irish nationalists see it as an empire, British nationalists either as a new Napoleonic Empire, a Fourth Reich, or a Socialist hegemony. US commentators tend to see at a Communist Superstate. Interesting, but not amazing, then, that a Soviet dissident should see it as a reprise of the Soviet Union.

What do you think?


Last edited by Auditor #9 on Tue Apr 08, 2008 4:14 pm; edited 2 times in total
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PostSubject: Re: The Character of the EU   Mon Apr 07, 2008 4:22 pm

Had to interfere with that post but you're confusing Europe and the EU - two very different creatures. Also, 'socialist' is a very loaded term, no matter how innocent your intentions (to say nothing of Superstate).

I think the EU is more about politics than European welfare. Consider what potent weapons economics and diplomatic unity are. These are the EU's arsenal in confronting the big scary world, and every effort is made to make them more efficient.
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PostSubject: Re: The Character of the EU   Mon Apr 07, 2008 6:45 pm

Are people enamoured with the EU for economic reasons. If economic reasons are removed from the equation would a person that proposed that Ireland would submit to outside control be classed a fool. If the economy takes a tumble and the jobs go East will a bit of sanity reemerge. Also can someone point out to me that this MEP chamber is anything but a rubberstamp Duma. The Commissarrs are the real politburo. I am not well up with this issue but to me it seems that regardless of which party, anyone that calls himself Taoiseach should be a leader and not a minor Squire paying homage and tithe.
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PostSubject: Re: The Character of the EU   Tue Apr 08, 2008 11:25 am

905 wrote:
Had to interfere with that post but you're confusing Europe and the EU - two very different creatures. Also, 'socialist' is a very loaded term, no matter how innocent your intentions (to say nothing of Superstate).

I think the EU is more about politics than European welfare. Consider what potent weapons economics and diplomatic unity are. These are the EU's arsenal in confronting the big scary world, and every effort is made to make them more efficient.
I call it Socialist because I believe there is an ethos of public-systems support and if needs be the lack of fear of printing money to support and generate activity of a socialist, planned and constructive nature as long as that money printing is not inflationary. This might be in contrast to the ideals of the US though they do spin the dollars of the presses with sfa to back them. The EU has the difference of structural funding programmes and the willingness to adopt an energy-usage ceiling unlike those greedy greedy yankees with their V8 Interceptors who still pay a lot less for their oil than they should... affraid Pity we don't have Asians on here too for comparison ...
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PostSubject: Re: The Character of the EU   Tue Apr 08, 2008 12:04 pm

To me socialist means lots of centralisation and planning from the centre. Despite all the talk of superstates, our countries have far more autonomy than the most liberalist US states.

Many European countries have a socialist streak, which the EU facilitates financially. I wouldn't say tnat's the same as saying the EU itself is socialist. Of course I may be wrong, the EU isn't my strong-point.
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PostSubject: Re: The Character of the EU   Tue Apr 08, 2008 12:36 pm

To me socialist also implies a strong grass-roots connection; I don't see that within the EU. Socialist politics in so far as I understand it, swells from the ground and the needs of the worker, the trade union member, the man in his home with his most basic needs.

It's that sense of connectedness that facilitates and is facilitated by a strong centralised government because everyone (ideally) feels that they are part of the same machine and the dynamic is (ideally) synergetic.

That's not my understanding of how the EU works and it certainly isn't the basis on which it was founded.
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PostSubject: Re: The Character of the EU   Tue Apr 08, 2008 1:05 pm

That's certainly not what socialism is about. It's centrist almost by definition. Still, nothing wrong with your socialism, which does have some grounding in the EU. A widely observed phenomenon has been the renaissance of regionalism, which actually weakens the central national government. I think it's called the Sletty syndrome.
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PostSubject: Re: The Character of the EU   Tue Apr 08, 2008 1:28 pm

Kate P wrote:
To me socialist also implies a strong grass-roots connection; I don't see that within the EU. Socialist politics in so far as I understand it, swells from the ground and the needs of the worker, the trade union member, the man in his home with his most basic needs.

It's that sense of connectedness that facilitates and is facilitated by a strong centralised government because everyone (ideally) feels that they are part of the same machine and the dynamic is (ideally) synergetic.

That sounds suspiciously like democracy to me.

Kate P wrote:
That's not my understanding of how the EU works and it certainly isn't the basis on which it was founded.

A large part of that, though, is because we live in a very highly centralised state, where the immediate connection between the citizen and the local layer of government is weak, and local government itself almost irrelevant - and there is virtually no local self-government. Unsurprisingly, we therefore see the EU as a more distant version of our own centre, and assume it has the same characteristics of attempting to deny lower levels any legitimacy.

The EU was, of course, founded as an inter-governmental system between nations recently at war and highly suspicious of each other, at a time when those states were highly oligarchic. However, as the EU has been given more competences, it has always increased its own level of democracy - each time moving further towards being a genuine pan-European democracy. This Treaty, for example, drops national vetoes on 50 areas, and simultaneously further subjects the unelected nation-state-basis Commission to the elected pan-European Parliament by making co-decision the normal mechanism for legislation.
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PostSubject: Re: The Character of the EU   Tue Apr 08, 2008 1:57 pm

905 wrote:
That's certainly not what socialism is about. It's centrist almost by definition. Still, nothing wrong with your socialism, which does have some grounding in the EU. A widely observed phenomenon has been the renaissance of regionalism, which actually weakens the central national government. I think it's called the Sletty syndrome.

I'm confused, 905. Didn't communism, Marxism and the 'man is born free but everywhere he is in chains' movements throughout history start with the worker on the ground and maintain their dynamic where they did so by maintaining close contacts (ideally) with those groups? Part of the noble ideal is surely that there is a narrowing of the gap between the worker and the centre?

Quote :
That sounds suspiciously like democracy to me.

It could be, if you divorce it from other characteristics of socialism.

Cuba, for example is not democratic - yet its regime is a brand of socialism.

ibis wrote
Quote :
A large part of that, though, is because we live in a very highly centralised state, where the immediate connection between the citizen and the local layer of government is weak, and local government itself almost irrelevant - and there is virtually no local self-government. Unsurprisingly, we therefore see the EU as a more distant version of our own centre, and assume it has the same characteristics of attempting to deny lower levels any legitimacy.

The EU was, of course, founded as an inter-governmental system between nations recently at war and highly suspicious of each other, at a time when those states were highly oligarchic. However, as the EU has been given more competences, it has always increased its own level of democracy - each time moving further towards being a genuine pan-European democracy. This Treaty, for example, drops national vetoes on 50 areas, and simultaneously further subjects the unelected nation-state-basis Commission to the elected pan-European Parliament by making co-decision the normal mechanism for legislation.

Socialism, like most movements I expect embodies a philosophy and a structure. I'm not assuming that the EU attempts to deny lower levels any legitimacy, rather that there isn't a socialist philosophy there that embraces 'lower levels' - which is an odious phrase, if you don't mind me saying so.

To my mind socialism is underpinned by a sense of sharing - and I know that's a simplistic expression of it; that the relationship between government and people should ideally be symbiotic. And the philosophy and the structures are strange bedfellows given that one is based on an idealist construct of how people should behave and the other is a practical attempt to harness or even prescribe (or proscribe in many cases) how people do behave.

However there can be no real socialist philosophy behind the EU based on its origins and its inability (rather than refusal) to engage with the masses. I don't think it's possible to retrospectively apply an uncomfortable top-down socialist philosophy to a massive organisation like the EU - even if it was desirable or realistic to do so.
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PostSubject: Re: The Character of the EU   Tue Apr 08, 2008 1:59 pm

Kate P wrote:
905 wrote:
That's certainly not what socialism is about. It's centrist almost by definition. Still, nothing wrong with your socialism, which does have some grounding in the EU. A widely observed phenomenon has been the renaissance of regionalism, which actually weakens the central national government. I think it's called the Sletty syndrome.

I'm confused, 905. Didn't communism, Marxism and the 'man is born free but everywhere he is in chains' movements throughout history start with the worker on the ground and maintain their dynamic where they did so by maintaining close contacts (ideally) with those groups? Part of the noble ideal is surely that there is a narrowing of the gap between the worker and the centre?

Quote :
That sounds suspiciously like democracy to me.

It could be, if you divorce it from other characteristics of socialism.

Cuba, for example is not democratic - yet its regime is a brand of socialism.

ibis wrote
Quote :
A large part of that, though, is because we live in a very highly centralised state, where the immediate connection between the citizen and the local layer of government is weak, and local government itself almost irrelevant - and there is virtually no local self-government. Unsurprisingly, we therefore see the EU as a more distant version of our own centre, and assume it has the same characteristics of attempting to deny lower levels any legitimacy.

The EU was, of course, founded as an inter-governmental system between nations recently at war and highly suspicious of each other, at a time when those states were highly oligarchic. However, as the EU has been given more competences, it has always increased its own level of democracy - each time moving further towards being a genuine pan-European democracy. This Treaty, for example, drops national vetoes on 50 areas, and simultaneously further subjects the unelected nation-state-basis Commission to the elected pan-European Parliament by making co-decision the normal mechanism for legislation.

Socialism, like most movements I expect embodies a philosophy and a structure. I'm not assuming that the EU attempts to deny lower levels any legitimacy, rather that there isn't a socialist philosophy there that embraces 'lower levels' - which is an odious phrase, if you don't mind me saying so.

To my mind socialism is underpinned by a sense of sharing - and I know that's a simplistic expression of it; that the relationship between government and people should ideally be symbiotic. And the philosophy and the structures are strange bedfellows given that one is based on an idealist construct of how people should behave and the other is a practical attempt to harness or even prescribe (or proscribe in many cases) how people do behave.

However there can be no real socialist philosophy behind the EU based on its origins and its inability (rather than refusal) to engage with the masses. I don't think it's possible to retrospectively apply an uncomfortable top-down socialist philosophy to a massive organisation like the EU - even if it was desirable or realistic to do so.

Kate, I think you're an anarcho-syndicalist!
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PostSubject: Re: The Character of the EU   Tue Apr 08, 2008 2:06 pm

Really? I wouldn't have thought that syndicalism was my thing at all. Anarchy even less so. But then, one learns so much about oneself through discussion.

How socialist do you think that the philosophy of the EU is?
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PostSubject: Re: The Character of the EU   Tue Apr 08, 2008 3:39 pm

Socialism may be about the man on the ground de jure. But de facto it has always been very centralised.
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PostSubject: Re: The Character of the EU   Tue Apr 08, 2008 3:58 pm

Any chance of changing the thread title to Is the EU socialist? I nearly missed a corker here and will be back to this one later.
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PostSubject: Re: The Character of the EU   Tue Apr 08, 2008 4:08 pm

I felt bad enough changing the title from Europe to the EU. We're not just talking about socialism here, though the discussion has gone off in that direction.

I'm the one that gets to say 'off-topic' in a menacing manner amn't I? Smile
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PostSubject: Re: The Character of the EU   Tue Apr 08, 2008 4:13 pm

905 wrote:
I felt bad enough changing the title from Europe to the EU. We're not just talking about socialism here, though the discussion has gone off in that direction.

I'm the one that gets to say 'off-topic' in a menacing manner amn't I? Smile
For some reason I liked it as Europe though I know it's wrong... Is it a good enough title or can you think of one with more hook value? As it happens I do think there is a prosperous strain of the socialist in Europe and the EU but as you are defining it let's get on with it. On second thoughts I think it should just be what it was before the latest change? And yeah, you do get to tell people they're off-topic Cool
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PostSubject: Re: The Character of the EU   Tue Apr 08, 2008 4:36 pm

To get us off this silly socialist road, has anyone considered the libertarian, free-trade roots of the EU? It was set up to facilitate the movement of steel and coal through the original six nations, the idea being that war was less likely to break out when everyone knew what you were doing with your steel and coal.

It's most defining characteristic has been it's free-trade and free movement of labour; an important point in these 'labour as a commodity' days. Then there's all the free trade aspiration towards the rest of the world, which is less evident in reality though. Beef from Brazil has a reasonable chance of losing tarifs but clothes from China will face more of an uphill struggle, mainly because it is China. Free movement of labout into the EU is well off the table too.
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PostSubject: Re: The Character of the EU   Tue Apr 08, 2008 4:52 pm

Kate P wrote:
Really? I wouldn't have thought that syndicalism was my thing at all. Anarchy even less so. But then, one learns so much about oneself through discussion.

Anarchism, not anarchy...well, the distinction is a little pedantic, but the idea that society is built from the bottom up by people voluntarily combining into groups, and those groups delegate "upwards" into groups of groups - is more anarchist than socialist. If you include ownership of the means of production there then you have socialist anarcho-syndicalism. If you assume strong private property rights instead, you have libertarian anarcho-syndicalism. Try Ursula LeGuin's "The Dispossessed" as a fictional view on a socialist anarcho-syndicalist society.

Kate P wrote:
How socialist do you think that the philosophy of the EU is?

Not at all. Does the EU seek to end the dominance of capitalism, or replace it entirely? It doesn't at all - and is therefore not socialist.

It is quite strongly social democratic though - "social democrats aim to reform capitalism democratically through state regulation and the creation of state sponsored programs and organizations which work to ameliorate or remove injustices purportedly inflicted by the capitalist market system" to quote Wikipedia - and that's as good a summary as any.


Last edited by ibis on Tue Apr 08, 2008 5:26 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: The Character of the EU   Tue Apr 08, 2008 5:01 pm

Quote :

Kate P wrote:Really? I wouldn't have thought that syndicalism was my thing at all. Anarchy even less so. But then, one learns so much about oneself through discussion.


Anarchism, not anarchy...well, the distinction is a little pedantic, but the idea that society is built from the bottom up by people voluntarily combining into groups, and those groups delegate "upwards" into groups of groups - is more anarchist than socialist. If you include ownership of the means of production there then you have socialist anarcho-syndicalism. If you assume strong private property rights instead, you have libertarian anarcho-syndicalism. Try Ursula LeGuin's "The Dispossessed" as a fictional view on a socialist anarcho-syndicalist society.


Thank you, ibis.

Either way - even if I screwed up the methodology, I come back to the same answer which is that I don't think the EU is socialist in its outlook.

Quote :
Libertarianism holds that agents are, at least initially, full self-owners. Agents are (moral) full self-owners just in case they morally own themselves in just the same way that they can morally fully own inanimate objects. Full ownership of an entity consists of a full set of the following ownership rights: (1) control rights over the use of the entity: both a liberty-right to use it and a claim-right that others not use it, (2) rights to compensation if someone uses the entity without one's permission, (3) enforcement rights (of prior restraint if someone is about to violate these rights), (4) rights to transfer these rights to others (by sale, rental, gift, or loan), and (5) immunities to the non-consensual loss of these rights. Full ownership is simply a logically strongest set of ownership rights over a thing.[1] There is some indeterminacy in this notion (since there can be more than one strongest set of such rights), but there is a determinate core set of rights
from http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/libertarianism/

Any disagreements on this from anyone before we go any further? The quote deals only with the aspect of self-ownership.
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PostSubject: Re: The Character of the EU   Tue Apr 08, 2008 5:27 pm

Are you going to put forward the view that the EU is libertarian?
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PostSubject: Re: The Character of the EU   Tue Apr 08, 2008 6:56 pm

******** Brief Entertainment Interlude *********

Not meant to derail anything as the discussion is going lovely but on the day that's in it with Pee in the Tribunal, gavinsblog has that fateful 1999 Late Late episode of Pee in full swing. And talking about the Commission and the Maastrict (?) Treaty. Featuring Gay Byrne with a cameo of Pat Cox.

http://www.gavinsblog.com/

************ End of Episode ***************
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PostSubject: Re: The Character of the EU   Tue Apr 08, 2008 7:18 pm

ibis wrote:
Are you going to put forward the view that the EU is libertarian?

No. I'm giving up on putting forward views.

But since the OP and 905 both mentioned the word I thought it would be worth putting out part of a definition at least as a possible good place to start.
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PostSubject: Re: The Character of the EU   Tue Apr 08, 2008 7:25 pm

Kate P wrote:
ibis wrote:
Are you going to put forward the view that the EU is libertarian?

No. I'm giving up on putting forward views.

But since the OP and 905 both mentioned the word I thought it would be worth putting out part of a definition at least as a possible good place to start.

Aye - beg your pardon, it's in the OP. I think my mind must have balked at "libertarian socialist".
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PostSubject: Re: The Character of the EU   Tue Apr 08, 2008 7:26 pm

Kate P wrote:
ibis wrote:
Are you going to put forward the view that the EU is libertarian?

No. I'm giving up on putting forward views.

But since the OP and 905 both mentioned the word I thought it would be worth putting out part of a definition at least as a possible good place to start.
And thanks for adding the definition Kate. Could the EU be seen as a Russian Dolls of systems and set-ups? Libertarianism inside a super-governance of a socialistic nature?
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PostSubject: Re: The Character of the EU   Tue Apr 08, 2008 7:39 pm

Look, I don't know what libertarian means exactly, I just meant right-wing economic thinking. No
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PostSubject: Re: The Character of the EU   Wed Apr 09, 2008 12:52 am

Auditor #9 wrote:
Kate P wrote:
ibis wrote:
Are you going to put forward the view that the EU is libertarian?

No. I'm giving up on putting forward views.

But since the OP and 905 both mentioned the word I thought it would be worth putting out part of a definition at least as a possible good place to start.
And thanks for adding the definition Kate. Could the EU be seen as a Russian Dolls of systems and set-ups? Libertarianism inside a super-governance of a socialistic nature?

I really don't think it can be seen as being either libertarian or socialist! It's liberal social democratic, certainly, but that's a different kettle of fish entirely.
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